- The Washington Times - Friday, April 18, 2008

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Investigators have found no evidence that two destroyed CIA interrogation videos contained information relevant to a federal lawsuit or covered by a court order, the CIA told a judge.

The documents filed in federal court Wednesday night were short on details but offered the first public accounting of the investigation into why the videos were destroyed.

U.S. District Judge Richard W. Roberts demanded the report because in July 2005, he ordered the government not to destroy any evidence related to a case brought by a Yemeni detainee at Guantanamo Bay. Months later, the CIA destroyed two videos showing harsh interrogation techniques used against two al Qaeda suspects.

After news of the tapes’ destruction broke in December, the Justice Department began an investigation and appointed John Durham, a veteran federal prosecutor from Connecticut, to lead it.

Mr. Durham is investigating whether any Capitol Hill inquiries or investigations were obstructed, whether court orders were violated and whether evidence was destroyed that could have been relevant to a court case — a violation known as spoliation.

The CIA organized a tapes coordination group to sort through massive amounts of classified documents in order to respond to requests by Mr. Durham and Capitol Hill lawmakers, according to a document filed by Robert L. Deitz, the senior CIA official leading that group.

“My staff and I have reviewed several thousand pages of material and we have not found any record evidencing intentional, accidental or negligent destruction of records covered by the court’s July 18, 2005 preservation order,” Mr. Deitz wrote.

Robert Moritsugu, an agent with the CIA’s inspector general’s office, told Judge Roberts that he searched all of that office’s investigative records and found nothing to suggest evidence in the court case was destroyed.

Mr. Deitz, however, added that his investigation was not complete. The investigation is broad and complex, he wrote.

His team normally would not be in charge of filling such a court-ordered request, but for one unusual circumstance:

“Many of the individuals at CIA who would normally be involved in a search for any records evidencing destruction or spoliation are, as I understand it, potential witnesses in the matter under investigation by Mr. Durham,” Mr. Deitz wrote.

Charles Carpenter, an attorney for the detainee, criticized the government for responding to the judge’s request piecemeal, rather than simply assuring the court that a thorough search was conducted. By leaving it to different agency officials to make more narrow statements, Mr. Carpenter said, the government leaves it unclear what exactly has been searched, what hasn’t and why.

“The government seems to be playing a passive-aggressive version of hide-and-seek,” he said.

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